What I’ve been doing on my allotment this weekPosted By: rocket veg Category: Growing Veg, Plant Care
At risk of stating the obvious, it’s been a glorious summer, a long spell of wonderful sunshine – more weather records broken – a summer to rival the legendary 1976 maybe? In spite of the lack of rain, the allotment site where my plot is located is in good shape and most plants are surviving and cropping well. OK – the grass paths are baked crisp and yellow, but they’ll recover once the rains come.
Wise watering and mulching
I’ve written before about the need to water wisely in times of drought, not only to conserve precious stocks of water whether stored in water butts (all gone now…) or from the mains supply, but also to target specific crops, rather than giving everything a token sprinkling. There’s no sign of a hosepipe ban coming into force in the south west of the country, but as the drought conditions look likely to continue, who knows what might happen in a few weeks’ time.
When it comes to watering, plants with deep roots should manage without being watered and will actually develop stronger root systems as a result, the roots stretching down into the soil in search of moisture. Brassicas, parsnips and carrots are good examples. Crops which will benefit from a regular supply of water (beans, peas, salad crops) should be given a good soaking around the base of the plant and if the soil has been well maintained with organic matter added from time to time it should retain moisture for several days.
If possible, water during the cooler times of day: I favour early morning as plants seem at their most receptive then, but watering in the evenings is fine. If you can avoid it, don’t water during the hottest time of day as leaves will scorch and much of the water will evaporate before it has a chance to do the plants any good.
Now is a good time to mulch – heaping organic matter around plants and as a covering for beds, but only after the soil has been given a thorough soaking. Mulch laid on bone dry soil will prevent moisture entering the ground and plants will almost certainly die.
Seeds to sow now
Provided that you prepare the soil carefully – the usual diligent weeding, raking and removal of stones and other lumpy matter - there are various varieties of plants which can be started off from seed now, or over the next few weeks, and which should crop well in late summer or later:
Leaf Beet: Perpetual Spinach
Salad crops – Radish, Lettuce and Salad Leaves: plenty to choose from
Spring cabbage: try Durham Early, Tantour F1, or Spring Greens
Carrots: Nantes 2, Flakkee
French beans: Speedy, or most of the dwarf varieties
Peas: Rondo, Terrain and Oregon Sugar Snap
Here’s a great tip when sowing seed into very dry soil: create deeper drills than normal and water well with the rose on your watering can before sowing so that the soil is well and truly wet to encourage speedy germination. A covering of horticultural fleece will help to reduce the loss of water through evaporation, especially when it is breezy as well as warm and sunny.
Hoeing and weeding
One of the few advantages of the dry spell this summer is that the growth of weeds has slowed right down, but I’m keeping an eye on the plants that I’ve been watering where weeds are also benefitting from a drop of moisture. I’m a tidy gardener and my natural inclination is to remove all traces of weed, but I’ve recently changed my practice when hoeing and leave the chopped off weeds where they fall to act as much-needed mulch. A short-handled hoe is a real boon at this time of year – just the job for getting between the stems and hoicking out all traces of weeds.